Contact: Graham Burgess (President) 4261 7657
Walks Contact: Margaret Carr 4228 8096
Illawarra Branch business meetings are held quarterly. All members are invited to attend and contribute to the discussion. The Branch also holds occasional social events and information nights.
2016 Annual General Meeting
The 2016 Illawarra Branch AGM was held on September 18 at the Gala cinema in Warrawong. It was combined with a screening of Understorey with filmmaker David Gallan and 51 others in attendance. The AGM included a number of reports and a committee election.
Illawarra Branch Committee
The new committee elected at the 2016 Annual General Meeting consists of: Sam Garrett Jones acted as Returning Officer. He thanked the outgoing committee and conducted the election of the following committee members: President: Graham Burgess Vice-President: Pam Robinson Secretary: Helen Wilson Treasurer: Joy Williams Activities co-ordinator: Margaret Carr Committee members: Col Meharg, Gleniss Wellings, Julie Jones, Jan Liddiard
- Graham Burgess, re-elected President
- Pam Robinson, Vice President
- Helen Wilson, Secretary
- Joy Williams, Treasurer
- Margaret Carr, Activities Officer
- Committee members: Gleniss Wellings, Jan Liddiard, Julie Jones and Col Meharg
Thanks go to all for accepting these positions.
The branch continues to work with Wollongong Council and other stakeholders on protecting nature in the region, with a focus on the Illawarra Escarpment. However, we have begun to broaden our horizons recently by supporting the campaign to protect the former Tallawarra Ash Ponds site as bird habitat. We also intend to make input to the development of a plan of management for Lake Illawarra. We are particularly committed to the development of The Grand Escarpment Walk. We are dissatisfied however with the lack of progress to date, despite repeated representations to Wollongong Council, NPWS and various politicians. A major focus for the branch in the last year has been our involvement in the community discussion on the future for the Mt Keira Summit Park and surrounding SCA. We have met with the mountain biking group with the aim of establishing an ongoing discussion with them. We had input to the recently published vision document for MKSP by meeting with, TRC Tourism, the consultant engaged by WCC, we attended a public forum hosted by TRC tourism and a forum on the proposed Plan of Management and Landscaping Master Plan for the Summit Park. We continue to make representations on mining proposals, and are particularly proud of the work of Peter Turner and Ann Brown in this regard. Ann received a conservation award at the NPA annual dinner while Secretary Helen Wilson was also honoured to receive an award for services to the branch. Another project in the last year was our work with Destination Wollongong and WCC to produce a much improved walks brochure for the local tourist centres. It is now available at both Bulli tops and Crown St centres as well as on-line. We are now working on the enhancement with more walks added. We are looking to Shellharbour area as well for the future. We are planning to trial a partnership in our walking program with Bushwalk the ‘Gong, a family-oriented working program run by Jenae Johnson.
The views from the escarpment are unsurpassed along our coastline, so much so that the Illawarra view is listed as a ‘scenic view of state wide significance’ on the register of the National Trust of Australia. (NSW). This should not be further disturbed by unnecessary inappropriate infrastructure. Another scenic value of the escarpment is as a vegetated backdrop to the Wollongong coastal plain. Any degree of vegetation clearing and or installation of intrusive facilities would not be consistent with this value. Indeed many people see such intrusions as blots on a special landscape.
The IESMP sets out the important view of the 'escarpment as a destination for ecologically sensitive recreation'. NPA is a conservation and bushwalking organisation and we are keen to see the development of appropriate facilities for the low impact activities of nature lovers. We have particularly promoted the development of a north-south Illawarra Escarpment Walk which would ultimately link the Royal and Morton National Parks. NPA has campaigned against high impact use of bush tracks such as by mountain bikes, trail bikes and horses. We are also opposed to any damaging off track use.
The Plan sees limited opportunities for 'local employment including tourism'. This is likely to be the major justification for any development on Mt Keira. We understand the Illawarra Escarpment including the IESCA and other land tenures provides the opportunity for visitation and income for the Wollongong region. We recognise there are opportunities for this income to be increased by improving opportunities for visitors to enjoy the area. For example the NPA is supportive of dining and possibly function facilities being located at Mt Keira, although the design of such facilities must fit well with the natural environment and be environmentally sustainable. An environmentally sustainable and integrated economic and environmental tourism strategy needs to be created for tourism activities on the escarpment. The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, NPWS and their Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area Draft Plan of Management (June 2011) must be part of that strategy. A holistic approach to conservation and well-managed human use must be developed. A tourism strategy for Mt Keira summit precinct or other locations on the escarpment must be a win-win for Wollongong and the environment. We note that visitors who come by train from Sydney and other locations have some opportunity to access the IESCA at a few locations in the north of Wollongong and at Mt Kembla by a limited bus connection. But there is no public transport connection to Mt Keira Summit Park or Bulli Tops tourist centre and dining complex. Public transport must form part of an overall tourism strategy. We submit that ideas such as that spearheaded by Destination Wollongong for a drawcard facility of adventure thrill seeking tourism which is aimed at driving the Illawarra regional growth plan cannot proceed until the above-mentioned strategy is in place.
There are also significant constraints on this site owing to its geology. The soils of the escarpment are highly erosive, derived from weathered shales and claystones. This means they are rated as having extreme erosion hazard and are prone to mass movement due to the high rainfall the escarpment receives and its steep gradients. The plant roots offer soil stability particularly in rainforests, where the trees have dense root mass close to the surface. If the trees are removed for infrastructure there will be soil loss and land instability. The movement of the land is ongoing within the IESCA. The sandstones are undermined by shales and rock falls occur, exacerbated by the high heavy rainfall, run off and groundwater. Landslips from past mining activities also occur, resulting in closure of lookouts and walking trails. In light of these values and constraints, we have particular concerns over the proposals for an adventure playground on the Mt Keira Summit Park and adjoining areas. Such high impact activities are not suitable for the escarpment. The site is too fragile and environmentally sensitive to withstand any significant development. Nor would we support any other facility that has the potential to degrade the biodiversity or environmental significance of the escarpment. In particular those areas zoned E1 such as the IESCA are not up for negotiation. These are protected areas and must remain so. We must seek to enhance and add to these areas. As well as noting the values of the escarpment discussed above, the Illawarra Escarpment Strategic Management Plan lists guiding principles including (Section 2.5): • any development of the escarpment should result in an overall conservation improvement to the escarpment • Ecologically Sustainable Development principles should be applied in managing the assets of the escarpment Such principles should establish that any development on Mt Keira summit will be severely constrained, lest it result in degradation of the rare vegetation or of ecosystems, affect stability or impact on the visual amenity of the Illawarra Escarpment. We urge stakeholders to take due care to ensure that any proposal for the site is in keeping with the Illawarra Escarpment Strategic Management Plan